Jimmy Fontaine

Kristin Kontrol Finds A New Freedom In 1980s Pop

The Dum Dum Girls frontwoman stretches her sound without losing her charm

Recently, Kristin Welchez, frontwoman of the rock band Dum Dum Girls, decided she needed to make a change. Her band, which had perfected a spooky, ’60s girl group–referencing strain of pop, was beginning to feel like a creative cage. "Where I wanted to go musically had outgrown the Dum Dum Girls thing," she said in an interview. "It just felt limiting and it made me feel like I couldn't do what I wanted to do, or if I did, it would get overlooked." So, to free herself, Welchez created Kristin Kontrol, a new persona of sorts.

What Welchez wanted to make, specifically, was her album X-Communicate, which is out today. Pulling heavily from ’80s new wave and ’90s shoegaze, it's a tight collection of razor-edged pop that doesn't completely abandon the sound that made Dum Dum Girls so great. Welchez may think this is new territory for her, but X-Communicate often plays like a continuation of her old band's last album, 2014's Too True, which pivoted toward new wave and post-punk classics like Siouxsie and the Banshees' A Kiss in the Dreamhouse and Blondie's Parallel Lines.

On songs like the sax-laden "Show Me" and "(Don't) Wannabe," Kristin Kontrol seems to move in the same universe as Carly Rae Jepsen's E•MO•TION, threading together dreamy synths and reverbed drums to create textures fit for a John Hughes–penned rom-com. Elsewhere, on tracks like "Drive the Night" and "White Street," she edges closer to the cool dream pop of bands like Curve and Lush. Throughout, Welchez sings of opening herself up in new ways, whether it be to an audience or a lover. "I can finally show you the real me," she sings on the warped, Neon Indian–evoking electronica of "Face 2 Face." "Don't you want to be something to someone?" she asks in the chorus of "(Don't) Wannabe."

X-Communicate is far from a firm rejection of the gothic, melancholic pop instincts that have defined Kristin Welchez's music for so many years — and that's for the best. Instead, she merely sharpens her craft, building a sound that energizes her music for the dance floor and proves how versatile she can be in the process.